Seen and Heard on the N+I Floor

All the way from Israel

Yes, that was the Israeli flag displayed over a dozen small booths near Start-up Alley on the show floor. The companies on display took advantage of a deal put forward by the Israeli Export Institute, a nonprofit organization set up by the Israeli government to promote overseas sales by Israeli companies.

The organization paid 80% of all expenses for the show, and bought a large chunk of floor space that it subdivided into 12 booths. The booths were smaller than the smallest ones sold by Interop itself, so the costs stayed even lower.

The organization has already signed up for next year.

VPN-heads

The Green Bay Packers and its foam rubber cheese-head hats have nothing on virtual private network (VPN) company WatchGuard Technologies Inc. For stopping by the booth, showgoers could walk away wearing a rubber replica of a WatchGuard Firebox II VPN appliance. Perhaps not so oddly, lots of people were actually wearing the red hats. Ten times a day someone from WatchGuard would walk around the show floor and give $100 to the first person found wearing one of the Firebox replicas. The hats were fashioned from actual casts of the equipment. If you've got one, hang onto it. There are fewer than 2,000 in existence - maybe they'll become collectibles.

Interop and a movie

More than a few couples were seen strolling through the aisles of Interop, hand in hand, making us wonder: Is networking the way to a man or woman's heart?

Ubaldo Flores and his wife Reyna strolled through the exhibits at the show like any other couple window-shopping at the mall.

The Floreses came to Interop from Tijuana, Mexico, to combine a Las Vegas vacation with a tour of the latest in network technology. He is an engineer who conducts workshops in telecommunications careers at Hispanic-American University Northeast (Universidad IberoAmericana Noreste) in Tijuana and she is a biochemist there. "We're both interested in telecommunications, and we can have a little vacation as well," Ubaldo Flores says.

Who's sick of this gimmick?

When some new trend comes along, it only takes a trade show for people to beat it to death. This year's overdone gimmick was anything resembling a "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" sketch. And if it wasn't a direct rip-off, several vendors who had game show-type demonstrations inevitably asked their contestants, "Is that your final answer?" Runners-up in-cluded any sort of Star Trek or Jerry Springer sketch. And if you thought the Ricky Martin craze was over, think again. SBC Communications Inc. hired a barbershop quartet, which changed "Livin' La Vida Loca" to "Changing How You See Data." Don't blame us if you can't get the song out of your head. We still can't.

Rage in the cage

If you can't attract crowds with orange fur, hire a wrestler. Satisfied with its success at Internet World, Phobos brought back its "Out-Rage-ous" cage, complete with giant foam sumo wrestling suits and a padded "cage." Helping with the announcing chores were World Wrestling Federation stars Test (Andrew Morton) and Hardcore Legend Mick Foley (aka Mankind). On Tuesday, Foley announced a bout between a Network World editor and a writer from CIO magazine.

We'd like to report that our editor came out on top, but right as he was about to finish off his foe, Foley interfered and threw our brave sumo editor, causing him to fall. We figure the ending was scripted.

- Compiled by Network World and IDG News Service reporters

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